Q&A with Michael Schanz, President of the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
You have an extensive background as a CEO in a diverse number of industries, what will your experience bring to the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine?
Running a business has to do with having a vision and a strong desire to execute on that. That desire comes from a strong alignment of values with an organization. A second equally important component is appreciating what it takes to make others in the organization feel motivated and included. A strong willingness to collaborate generates a sense of openness and trust and I think helps people that their opinions matter. What results is a sense of community and common purpose and I see that as being the best way to high productivity, ideas, and efficiency.
What are some things you have already implemented in your short tenure as the president?
I have developed a framework which is supposed to clarify the way forward. This framework is based on three different legs. The first and most important is education and research. Boucher has its own approach to teaching which has become a keystone of its culture. That is a small and highly personalized approach to student instruction, something that can probably not be achieved in a larger class size. I intend to preserve that. At the same time, we are planning to expand our research department and I will be seeking outside funding to do that.
The second leg is patient treatment and community outreach. The demand for our clinic services is growing within the community and we plan on expanding our role in this area. We believe in equal access for all and to the extent that it is financially possible, want to continue to open our doors to those who need us.
The third is public information, partners, and advocacy. Here we plan to work with all of those who have a similar view of the world as we do and strengthen relationships to our mutual benefit. We will be increasing our activity in the community to speak about prevention and other things that people can do as they feel a need to take more responsibility for their own health care programs.
When you view the profession as it now stands, what are your concerns regarding naturopathic medicine’s role in the Canadian healthcare system?
I think that naturopathic medicine is on the way up. There are certainly some clouds on the horizon, but I am convinced that we can deal with these because truth is on our side. I have spent quite a number of years in Europe, and I have seen how different systems coexist and are able to build upon the strengths of each other. And I have seen how individuals have equal access to all. Let’s face it, naturopathic medicine does have its advantages, and we plan on working hard to help others understand these in a more effective, more economically viable, and more accessible medical care system in our country.
How does the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine support and serve its local communities?
We do this in a number of ways. We offer free patient care services for our students and dependents. We offer very low-cost services for the economically disadvantaged and we have begun a treatment program for our First Nations people. I find the latter particularly exciting because it gives us an opportunity to learn and integrate more in the way of native medical practices, within which I am convinced, lies an extensive base of knowledge and wisdom.
What challenges do you see for the Naturopathic students graduating and entering the profession today?
Clearly the first is to be able to assure a critical number of patients as students open their own practices. This is why I see our role as one where, just as much as educators, we are also marketers. We need to become even more active in creating an environment where students feel confident that they will be able to survive in their early years of practice. Medical and dental students can, why shouldn’t ours? For this, the profession will have to increase its efforts with regards to advocacy, and we are planning to work with our partners to take the best approach to this issue. In any case, we needn’t be afraid of becoming more vocal if we remain respectful and balanced in our approach because our intentions are honourable.
Knowing that these are the challenges for naturopathic students, how can these be overcome?
As mentioned, we need to recognize that we need to create the demand for naturopathic medical services amongst the public. We already emphasize our focus on disease prevention and NDs as highly qualified primary care physicians. I think that both of these would certainly help policymakers deal with our existing health care deficits and to the extent that they do, this should create more space for our graduating doctors in what could be a few short years.
What do you envision for the Boucher Naturopathic Institute of Naturopathic Medicine over the next five years?
We will continue to build upon our strengths and that, first and foremost, is our personal and transformative approach in our educational program. We also plan to become more active in the way of providing information. That may be to the profession, to policymakers or to the public. Lastly, we will be pursuing partnerships. These may be in terms of funding or in terms of establishing mutually viable projects. We are already having discussions in these areas, and I hope to be able to make some announcements in the not too distant future.